Interview with Ketil Eggum
What can you tell me about the origin of both the band and its name? When did you become attracted to the more extreme side of sound?
Well, I joined the band in 1994, but it already existed since 1989 with two members. I learnt that there was a book written in 1932, called Red Harvest, about crime and bloodshed, so that’s kind of cool. It’s a really brutal book, so it makes Stephen King’s books and stories look like Mother Teresa’s, but, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to buy it yet. But I like the name, as it has connections with blood, but it was actually the guy that I replaced who came up with it in 1991 (they were previously called Arctic Thunder). Around 1992 I moved to Oslo and then it was the time when I met the people in Red Harvest. They needed a guitarist at the time, so it was just a natural thing to accept their offer. I’m actually an art director, so I still work, as I don’t earn enough money to live from music. I usually do commercial movies and advertisements in an agency for television and big newspapers, but I did some layouts too, for bands like Aura Noir, Beyond Dawn and Fleurety.
I don’t know why I like extreme sounds, but I guess I have been kind of lucky for growing up in a family that wasn’t into mainstream music (at least my father wasn’t). I grew up listening to Pink Floyd, The Beatles and stuff like that; it was kind of extreme back then and, of course, I also got my Kiss period and they are still, or used to be, a bit Metal or Hard Rock, so when you start listening to them it’s just natural to follow bands like Slayer and Metallica. I am also really into monotonous and one-dimensional music, being Industrial and Noise favourites of mine.
Last year you inked a deal with Nocturnal Art Productions. Did you choose it for practical reasons or because of your experience with Voices of Wonder? Do you like any other bands from its roster?
It was not for the reason of the location factor, since we were two days away from signing with a Dutch label called Displeased (I think they got really pissed-off), but it turned out that the deal with Nocturnal Art Productions was much better for us and, partially as you said, it’s also a bit easier that it is actually situated in the same country. Samoth is a great guy, works in an efficient way and only signs bands he is personally into, so it’s natural that his label and bands are doing well. We were lucky that he attended a gig of ours (in 1996 or 1997), very close to where he lives (and he also seen us playing live in Oslo once) and he really liked what we did live, so when he heard that we were looking for a new deal he gave me a call and said “You can have it, if you want to.” Plus, we also got a lot more money from him than the Dutch people.
In relation to Voices Of Wonder, I have to say you got that one right. People in Norway just couldn’t get a hold of our CD’s and I don’t think the label did any promotion at all with the last EP. The guys that worked for us there have ultimately quit and started their own distribution company, but I think the label is going to close pretty soon, as there are actually no bands and the few there are just want to get out. I don’t know if they’re going to read this interview but, just in case, they have treated us pretty good when we decided to quit the deal – because we actually had one CD left – so you are just assholes but you’ve behaved good (laughs). We weren’t looking for any other labels when we left Voices of Wonder, but I really don’t know how Samoth knew that we were going to sign with Displeased, as he lives in another part of Norway, but I guess that he heard from someone else, as I didn’t talk to him previously. One day I got a call from him, saying “How are you guys doing?” and I said “Not too good.” (smiles). Then he said “I can give you a deal.” and that was it. Samoth is also a profiled person in the music industry, so it’s a nice thing to have him on the team.
Limbonic Art is a very good band; I really like their last CD – especially the last song – but, like I told you, I can hear that Sirius are good musicians and they are doing pretty well, but it’s personally not my kind of music because there is too much melody in it, but it’s enjoyable. I saw Tidfall live once and I heard like two tracks from the new album, I think it’s good.
What is your outlook on Cold Dark Matter and in what ways does it differ from last year’s New Rage World Music EP? Is there any reason behind the homophony of Hybrid (blend) with Hybreed? Have you been accused of right-winged ideals due to the title’s nature?
The new album is really brutal. It differs a little bit from New Rage World Music because the point of that EP was to enter the studio just to record four or five songs, but in the end they sounded so good that we really wanted to release them, so it was kind of “art by accident” (smiles). The new album is also a mix between technology and Slayer with really hard vocals, so it’s very industrial and I don’t think you’ve ever heard anything like it before. It’s about 40 minutes, 9 songs, and it’s heading towards an extremer direction. I played the album for some people already and they were like torn apart after 40 minutes, so it’s a brutal CD, and the title is just one of the lines from the lyrics. Cold Dark Matter is everything around us that doesn’t send out lights, so we’re not able to see it, but there’s a theory that says there’s got to be something else around us that we can’t see and that’s why we chose the title. Furthermore, this is a new step for us, absolutely. Nocturnal Art Productions is more or less a Black Metal label and we sat down and discussed a few things. We agreed on playing the way we want to play, so we’re not going to try to please the Black Metal audience or the more alternative audience, we’ll just do it the way we want. We actually asked Samoth if that was okay with him and he said “Do whatever you want. I dig the band anyway, so I trust you guys.” (smiles). That’s what you always say, but, hand on heart, I think this is the best album I’ve ever recorded: smashing and brutal like hell.
Answering your last question, we have released a MCD, or an EP, if you will, in 1995 called The Master Nation (before Hybreed) and The Master Nation EP has this logo that people think it’s a Nazi symbol when it’s actually wrong. But people have been used to think that Nazis had lots of symbols, so when they see a black album having such a title they instantly make an association and then all hell breaks loose. But the singer in Red Harvest is heavily into UFO theories, so the title could be interpreted as an advanced breed rather than a quick link with Nazism. So, as you see, it’s nothing racial from our side, but some people like to think so.
Regarding the homophony you mentioned, we did the same thing with New Rage World Music, because it’s kind of like New Age, so it’s like making fun of such music, but I don’t think everybody understands that. So as you said a while ago, we have always two sides of the same coin for each title, except for this last one.
Where you move towards, in a lyrical sense? What are your expectations regarding the new millennium and how do you picture Religion?
I wrote some of the lyrics on the new album. We are approaching a lot of “cyborg” lyrics these days, like technology versus Man, although I wrote some lyrics about a state of mind that you can get into if you feel a bit pissed. I think on this new album there’s actually a meaning to some of the lyrics, so for the first time we are going to have the lyrics available on the Internet. I really don’t think there is going to be a difference at all – at least in a short-term – regarding the new millennium. I don’t believe neither in Heaven nor Hell, but I think religion is bad for people, and there are so many problems in the world connected to religion that I think we should be a lot better without it. But, then again, I wouldn’t call myself satanic or anything like that.
What is your viewpoint about what happened in Norway in connection with Black Metal? Do you think it has strengthened the bonds between believers and lead their perpetrators to an own self-destruction? What are your thoughts about extremism and nihilism?
I knew Euronymous, as we lived 50 meters away from Helvete – Inferno, as you say here. I know the guys playing in Mayhem now and I actually met shit-face Vikernes. Our singer and Samoth went to some of the rehearsals, because they were all hanging together, so they knew all those people. I think most people outside Norway misunderstood what the so-called Inner Circle was all about. At that time, you had bands like Bon Jovi and Europe all over Scandinavia and those guys just wanted to do something more extreme, like playing rawer music, and, actually, what they did was that they wore almost the same thing – like a mixture of Motörhead with bullet-belts and spikes – and they played even more extreme music but they looked like Glam-Rockers at the same time, so that’s why the make-up and everything came next. I just think that things got seriously out of hand, as, mainly, they just wanted to shock – or at least that’s what I think. After Euronymous died, Red Harvest and Dunkelheit got the police on our doors because they didn’t know about the extreme music scene – and I feel that we belong to it, even if we’re not Black Metal – so they searched everybody’s houses, including mine, and even some people from Cadaver took a member of our band all the way to Oslo to get questioned by the police (that’s like a 2 hours’ drive), but they were treating him really good because they wanted him to talk. In the end, this came to give a lot of publicity and money to lots of people.
I agree with you about that strengthening of bonds within the Church, as it kept people more tied together, but I think that if that hadn’t happen, many Norwegian bands would probably not have the same success today. However, I would like to clear that Christianity doesn’t have the same power as people tend to believe.
Extremism can be a good thing – like extreme music, for instance (smiles) – but I really don’t like people doing extreme stuff to hurt other people, or the reasons that drive people to commit such deeds. But I can understand that in Germany people were really poor before the war and then this guy comes showing them big parades? It’s like in our country, people are brainwashed all the time and that makes me really sick.
Order comes from chaos and vice-versa. The world is leaning towards commotion, disorder and turmoil. Do you think the Big-Bang theory is ultimately the most legitimate when justifying our existence? Do you believe in a god (e.g. a flawless and superior being), or do you think Man created him in order to attribute a more human appearance to Nature?
I understand the question, although it’s kind of difficult to understand it all at once. As I told you, I don’t believe that God created Man, so I think you’re right – as well as the theory you mentioned about the Big-Bang. It’s kind of fascinating, turning to the album-title again, that you get four elements that people believed in the old days – like fire, water, air and earth – plus the fifth, which is the spirit or the cold dark matter. Like I told you, I don’t believe in religion, but I think there is definitely something else.
Answering the last part of your question, I think that it’s fascinating, it’s dramatic nature; people made logical conclusions about how things are – like lightning in Norway must be “the gods are angry, there is a guy slamming with his hammer” – and it makes sense, I guess. You were also saying that gods can be a symbolic depiction of human behaviour and I have to totally agree with you on this one, so I will add no further.
As the interview is being conducted in Lisbon, tell me how do you like the city and Portugal in general. Are you acquainted with our music scene? What are the main differences between Portugal and Norway for you?
I came to Portugal for the first time one year ago and it was such a good experience that we’re actually planning to buy an apartment here. We had this 10 year period plan from which we realised that we should be able to move here sooner or later because there is too much snow in Norway and I like the people here; it’s also a friendly country – especially for people coming from Norway – and it’s not expansive to be here. I might come on a permanent basis but not yet, as I need to save some money first. I don’t know if I will leave Red Harvest, but I think the other guys would love to come down here, so it’s all a bit uncertain yet – maybe we could be known as Red Harvest from Portugal by then (laughs). The only thing it freaks me out is the way you drive cars, as it’s a mess, but it works in one way or another (laughs).
I got acquainted with your scene by Pedro, of Aenima, which interviewed me in 1996 or 1997. So when I came down here in 1999, I wrote down to him, saying that we were going to Lisbon and if he had the time to meet us we could arrange something, so it turned out to be a quite funny and enjoyable experience, and it’s also better when you have someone to show you the things around as well. Apart from that, I only know you, besides Pedro, in your underground scene. I also noticed some nights ago that you have a selected group of Gothic and Dark Wave people attending specific clubs during the week, so it’s kind of nice (even if a little weird).
The big difference I noticed between Norway and Portugal was, obviously, the driving but, besides this, it’s a very inexpensive country to go to and it’s kind of controlled chaos, especially in Lisbon and in the periphery, besides the dramatic conduct I have been noticing these last few days. But, in comparison, Norwegians are very closed and we’re not talking to each other, or screaming out loud (smiles).
Were you not playing guitar on Red Harvest, would you still feel the urge to express yourself differently? If so, which medium would you use and why? Are you interested in Film or Theatre?
I am kind of lucky in doing what I am doing, although I work as an art director, so I’m still able to express and make things, even though it sounds kind of a commercial thing to do because you get paid for doing it, and some people almost tell you what to do, but I work in a company that is known to be quite selective, as they’re able to tell the client if they want to do the job or not. I might sound like an asshole right now, but it’s the best agency in Norway, so we can pick the clients and I can also do a lot of cool stuff there. But I really like to play guitar in Red Harvest, even if the music might sound quite simple but it’s not, as it’s quite difficult to make things sound the way they do, but then I would probably even buy a studio to satisfy myself. Like I always say, I think it’s more polite to make aggressive music than going and beat everybody.
I never go to the theatre, because you just don’t do that. Maybe we should go to theatres a lot more, but I like to see movies and we rent videos quite often. The last movie I saw was Sleepy Hollow and I want to see The Green Mile. David Lynch is one my favourite producers and I own all of his movies, except Eraserhead, as it’s too weird. Wild at Heart and Lost Highway are great movies. I think one of my favourite actors is Johnny Depp; I’m not saying I like everything he has been doing, but he is picking all these strange characters to play and he could be a superstar – actually, he is, but in the same way as Tom Cruise. I also like Gilbert Craig’s works, as well as A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey, from Stanley Kubrick, even if they’re a little weird. Actually, I read this article pointing out the minor mistakes in his movies, like microphones appearing in the screen, but it doesn’t really matter to me. I’ve also seen The Shining, which is a great movie, but, if compared to the book, I think it sucks. I also like some Danish directors that make so-called “dogma movies” based on certain rules, like only using natural lights instead of electricity, or camcorders as an alternative to standard cameras.
Tell me about your future plans and if you’re considering playing live this year.
We’re going to do some festivals during the summer, maybe a couple in Germany and one in Oslo, and we’re going to do a tour in Scandinavia with Godflesh in the end of August; if that tour turns into a good concept, we’re going to take it further and probably tour around Europe and the US as well.
Let me just say that this was a quite good interview, even if I usually don’t think about some of the things you asked me – like the Inner-Circle thing – so it can be quite difficult to express what you want to say.